In my Ancient History class we did a little experiment last week. We have been studying the Ancient Greeks and
comparing some of the city-states. We watched a PBS movie, The Greeks; Crucible of Civilization, that chronicled the development of Athens and Sparta through various monarchies, dictators, oligarchies, and eventually democracies. Each development filled a need and created others. Outside pressures, primarily from the Persians, pushed city-states that were often at war with each other, to unite against a common enemy. As tyrants rose and fell, land became a point of contention, and slave populations grew. We saw that laws were needed that were fair and that the people would abide by.
For our experiment I divided the kids up into 3 groups. It’s important that each group have some boys and some girls. I figured that since no one can chose where they are born I wouldn’t give the kids a choice about the groups they were in. I counted off the boys and the girls by threes, sending the twos to one area of the room etc. Once they were all in their groups I explained the rules of the game. Basically, for the next 2 1/2 hours the kids would be living as ancient Greeks in their city-states. Each group had their table and an area around the table to claim as their ‘land’. They were to live by basic laws honored in most Greek City-Sates.
1. Boys must do all the work and make all of the decisions.
2. Girls must keep their homes and land clean and organized.
3. Girls may not travel unaccompanied by a male outside of their city-state. (This law in particular drew groans. The experiment included the next class period and our lunch break and the girls needed an escort to go to the store, the bathrooms, the kitchen, etc.)
At the end of the time period I had two judges come in. One to judge the boys ‘work’, and one to judge how well the girls did. The boys were assigned the following ‘work’. They had to name their city-state, make up ten laws, and draw a poster of the laws, name, flag etc. The girls were not allowed to help, they could humbly offer an opinion but all decisions had to be made by the boys.
Breaking any of the rules resulted in points being deducted. We had girls lose points for coloring on their posters and wandering off without an escort. If they completed their work in an exemplary fashion the boys could earn up to 10 points and the girls up to 5. Sorry girls, uneven pay scale back then.
I was happy to hear one 9th grade girl grumbling about 20 minutes into the exercise. “I thought this was going to be so great, sit back and relax for a whole class and watch the boys do all the work…but it’s horrible. It’s boring. I have ideas too…” All the girls basically felt the same way and were very happy when they no longer needed escorts to walk about the building.
Here are some of the laws the kids came up with.
The first city-state was Atlantis and their flag consisted of a trident in waves. Some of their laws were:
1. Everyone must worship Poseidon.
2. Murder of a citizen is death by crucifixion.
3. Killing of cattle, or other animals, results in you having to repay double.
4. All citizens, slaves, and hetics are required to participate in any wars. (Hetics were people who moved into your city-state from another city-state, generally tradesmen.)
Our next city-state was Siligia. Some of their laws were:
1. Our official goddess is Athena and you must make an offering to her once a week.
2. Male citizens must serve 5 years in the military.
3. You must contribute 10% of your wealth to your city.
4. No public nudity, you must dress appropriately.
5. Children must be educated until the age of 18.
(The rest of theirs were similar to the 10 Commandments.)
Our last city-state was Equus Fuga which means Flying Horse in Latin. Some of their laws were:
1. Women must have their arms completely covered when in the polis.
2. All visitors will be cared for and receive hospitality. (They had a limit on how long families had to put up visitors and then someone else had to take them in.)
3. This city-state was concerned about noise pollution and had a law that you could not talk to someone who was more than 5 feet away, thus reducing shouting.
4. Concern over the spread of the plague brought about this next law…every person must boil water before it can be consumed.
5. The goddess Aphrodite is this city-states patron goddess and must be worshiped fervently for one hour.
This would be a fun exercise to continue if you have a small group of children and siblings. You could continue to develop your city-state as you learned more about the different political systems, military experience, and family life in Greece.